Want to know how bad Megaforce is? It was never released on DVD. In an era when every fourth-rate chunk of shit merited at least a $6.99 el cheapo disc, no one could be bothered to bring this movie into the 21st century. Its awfulness takes the breath away; its abject incompetence is the stuff of legends. We mention it here only because of a fluke in history: it shared a release date with Blade Runner and The Thing, two movies that now stand at the top of their respective pantheons. The turkey squatting amid such eagles thus draws attention by default.
And to be sure, the kids love it. It has motorcycles that shoot missiles after all. And that freaky bald chick from the first Star Trek movie, who’s grown her hair back out for this one. As nostalgia fodder for those of a certain age, it will suffice. On the other hand, one can certainly find nostalgia fodder in a less toxic form than this.
The cheese factor forms the other part of its appeal, starting with its weirdly toothless militarism and progressing right down to the Aerobics King hairstyle of leading man Barry Bostwick. He plays the leader of an elite squad of internationally American mercenaries, armed with high-tech weapons and dedicated to the principles of kicking bad guys’ asses with silly missile-launching motorcycles. He gets a golden opportunity during a war between the fictitious countries of Sardun (peaceful) and Gamibia (evil). In the midst of various stodgy exposition scenes, Bostwick’s Ace Hunter falls for a comely Sardun officer (Persis Khambatta) while battling an old friend, General Gurerra (Henry Silva), leading the Gamibian invasion. The film maintains an actual “plot,” but views it more as a nuisance than a necessity, probably because it would detract from the scorching homoeroticism of Bostwick in his spandex unitard.
Megaforce was directed by Hal Needham, who worked as a stuntman for many years before riding Burt Reynolds’ coattails straight into to the director’s chair. Stunts remain the name of the game here… which would be fine if they didn’t involve ridiculous dune buggies and motorcycles flying around in what appears to be the high desert of California. The set pieces are performed with the misplaced energy of enthusiastic amateurs, hampered by ponderous set-ups and less-than-convincing payoffs. You won’t see miniature this cheap outside a model train store, and the bluescreen effects in the film’s finale take the breath away for all the wrong reasons.
The film also maintains a fetishistic fascination for Q-branch exposition, as various members of the team explain various gadgets in dry terms that mask their borderline orgasmic glee. Once we find out what they do, we get to see them in action, taking down a seemingly endless array of enemy tanks, soldiers and bases while making nonchalant quips to remind us that the really aren’t worried about those swarthy foreigners shooting at them. The Boys’ Own qualities grant it a certain charm, but to adult eye, the silly hardware and shoddy action sequences lose their novelty value very quickly.
Thankfully, Megaforce takes it all deadly seriously, which – as is typical in these kinds of efforts – actually makes it a comedy gold mine. (Team America and Family Guy, among others, have both used it as brilliant fodder.) Bostwick’s cringe-worthy tough guy shtick is constantly undone by his feathery hair and dated headband, while he and Khambatta generate the kind of apocalyptic non-chemistry that only third-tier actors can muster. The film’s adorable attempts to invest its living action figures with actual personality hurts on a level I can scarcely articulate. The storyline adopts a rah-rah attitude typical of Reagan’s America, though it bends over backwards to avoid any actual political stance to interrupt its bloodless good time.
They sadly underestimated the “good time” elements, resulting in a critical and commercial black hole so dark that no one wants to throw any more money into it. A few VHS copies still exist (I found mine in the cult section of a specialty video store), but you won’t find anything more sophisticated in a viewing medium. The video quality actually adds to the nostalgia, though don’t expect any warm feelings to last without copious amounts of alcohol. This turd bucket lies forgotten for a reason. Only the company it kept – and its comically dated adherence to the tropes of its era – merits mentioning it at all.